According to a Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report, titled “Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2019” India has become the third largest military spender in the world, after the US and China,. This is the first time that India and China are among the top three military spenders. Total global military expenditure rose to $1,917 billion in 2019, which is an increase of 3.6 per cent from 2018 and the largest annual growth in spending since 2010. The five largest spenders, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, in 2019 accounted for 62 per cent of the expenditure. Military spending by the US, which is the highest, grew by 5.3 per cent to a total of $732 billion in 2019 and accounted for 38 per cent of global military spending.
According to the SIPRI report, India’s “tensions” and “rivalry” with Pakistan and China are among the main reasons for its increased military expenditure, which grew by 6.8 percent to $71.1 billion in 2019, the highest military spending in South Asia.
India’s military expenditure has risen significantly over the past few decades. It grew by 259 per cent over the 30-year period 1990 and 2019 and by 37 per cent over the decade 2010–19. However, its military burden fell from 2.7 per cent of GDP in 2010 to 2.4 per cent in 2019.
China, the world’s second-largest military spender, is estimated to have allocated $261 billion to the military in 2019—equivalent to 14 per cent of the global military expenditure. Its military spending in 2019 was 5.1 per cent higher than in 2018 and 85 per cent higher than in 2010. “China’s military expenditure has increased continuously since 1994 (for 25 consecutive years). The growth in its military spending has closely matched the country’s economic growth. Between 2010 and 2019, China’s military burden remained almost unchanged, at 1.9 per cent of its GDP.
- The highlights of the SIPRI report
- The global military expenditure rose to $1917 billion in 2019 with India and China emerging among the top three spenders.
- Global military spending in 2019 represented 2.2% of the global GDP and this was an increase of 3.6% from 2018 and the largest annual growth in spending since 2010, the report stated.
- In Asia and Oceania, other than India and China, Japan ($47.6 bn) and South Korea ($43.9 bn) were the largest military spenders.
- In 2019, the top five largest spenders — U.S. ($732 bn), China, India, Russia ($65.1 bn) and Saudi Arabia ($61.9 bn) — accounted for 62% of the global expenditure.
- India’s expenditure in 2019 was 6.8% more than that in 2018, the report says the country’s military expenditure has risen significantly over the past few decades. It grew by 259% over the 30-year period of 1990–2019, and by 37% over the decade of 2010–19. However, its military burden fell from 2.7% of GDP in 2010 to 2.4% in 2019.
- India’s defense spending has been going down as a percentage of its GDP as noted by the report. For instance, the defence allocation in the latest budget for 2020-21 which was ₹3.37 lakh crore, excluding defence pensions, accounts for about 1.5% of the country’s GDP, the lowest in recent times. This does not include pensions.
- China, the world’s second-largest military spender, is estimated to have allocated $261 billion to the military in 2019—equivalent to 14 per cent of the global military expenditure.
- Pakistan’s military expenditure rose by 70% over the decade 2010–19, to reach $10.3 billion while the military burden increased from 3.4% of GDP in 2010 to 4% in 2019, says the report. Pakistan was at the 24th position in 2019 compared to 19th in 2018.
- The growth in its military spending has closely matched the country’s economic growth. Between 2010 and 2019, China’s military burden remained almost unchanged, at 1.9 per cent of its GDP.
The ideal situation in Asia would have been devoting more focus and priority to infrastructure, connectivity and socioeconomic development to create sustained and productive employment and remove poverty as well as disease in the region. But the geopolitical interests in the South Asian region have created an arms race, which continues for at least three decades without any respite. At a time when rightwing nationalism has become an important political plank in India and Communist Party of China needs harping on the theme of nationalism to distract its people’s attention from economic failures of recent times, there is no wonder that an arms race has been begun again. The logic of security, deterrence and preparedness for safeguarding national sovereignty may appear logical, but world needs to channelize the huge resources spend on military to solve the development challenges. This requires resolving the international disputes and problems by negotiation and diplomacy according to international laws and conventions on one hand and shunning military based expansionist approach and intent of hegemony on the other. Can the world be better?